Erdogan’s Turkey in dire straits for flip flop policies in the Middle East

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (in the middle) held a Press conference on Friday 5 January 2018, at Istanbul Airport, before flying to France. In relation to the Hakan Atilla case in the U.S., he said: “If this is the U.S.’ understanding of justice, then the world is doomed.” (Presidency of the Republic of Turkey work).

Last week a US federal court convicted Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank. This is a major financial institution of this country, controlled directly by the government. Attila found guilty on five accounts, for evading the American sanctions imposed on Iran. Most of those punitive measures were lifted in April 2015, in the context of the P5+1 agreement between Iran and six global powers (US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany).

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a Press Conference called this court decision a political attack against his government. He also stressed that after this development, he is obliged to question all the bilateral agreements the two countries have concluded. The main witness for the accusation testified that Atilla, had colluded with Erdogan in order to dodge the US and help Iran get hold of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign currency, in a number of transactions with Iranian gold.

The witness also left it to be understood that there must have also been some personal ‘gains’ for Erdogan himself out of these transactions. This is the latest episode in a series of continuously deteriorating relations between Turkey and the West in general and the US in particular. But let’s take the story from the beginning.

In dire straits

Turkey’s President and together with him his troubled country are between a rock and hard place, or more scholarly, between Scylla and Charybdis for quite some time now. On the one side, his great grand project to lead the Muslim world is in ruins. It has exposed him as an unscrupulous and opportunist, unable to understand and cope with the diversity of Middle East politics. His grandiose project ended up in building enmity between Turkey and the United States, Europe and key Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and Israel.

At home, it paid very few dividends for Erdogan. Finally, it has harshly hit back and Erdogan has lost all credibility with the West. During the past year, the Americans decided they cannot count on him for anything in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the wider region.

Exploited by Moscow

On the Charybdis side, Erdogan didn’t find the support he expected from Putin’s Russia, after embracing Moscow and discarding the traditional western affiliation of Turkey, the only Muslim NATO country. Moscow exploited Erdogan’s help to gain a dominant position in Syria. In this way, Russia greatly strengthened  her presence in the Middle East. At the same time, Turkey hasn’t received anything tangible from Putin. The token gesture of the sale of the Russian S-400 missiles to Turkey is yet to materialize.  In the end, very probably, this state of the art weaponry will remain under direct Moscow’s control even when deployed in Turkey.

All along Turkey’s flip flop policies in the Syrian civil war and the wider Middle East in general, her setbacks were exacerbated by Erdogan’s unrestricted, antagonistic and superfluous rhetoric. On many occasions, he attacked  a number of European countries with harsh words. Germany and Holland became top targets for not letting him to transfer his all out fight for personal supremacy at home on their soil. While on official visit in Washington D.C. and the White House he even dared to let his personal security brutally attack some peaceful American demonstrators, who were critical of his harsh appeasement of any opposition voice at home.

The US dumps Erdogan

The Americans finally decided they couldn’t trust Erdogan’s Turkey for anything. So, Washington in her total war against the ISIS butchers in Syria and Iraq chose to rely on Turkey’s arch enemy, the Kurds. For the US objectives in the Syrian civil war, the Kurds proved to be the only effective force on the ground, and a trustworthy interlocutor in the negotiations table. It was then plain to Americans; if they wanted to play any role in Syria, they were obliged to totally depend on the Kurds. In Iraq too, the Kurds were a great help to extinguish the ISIS presence there.

In Syria, as the Russians and the Iranians were making impressive military progress on the ground supporting President ‎Bahsar al-Assad’s forces, the Americans kept increasing their support and supplies of armaments to the Kurds. Erdogan couldn’t swallow this US strategy and panicky rushed to embrace the other side, the Russians and the Iranians. However, in this way he was exposed at home as ‘a useful idiot’ for the West and unequivocally unreliable if not a foe for the US and Europe.

Choosing Iran

Things became even worse for Turkey some months ago, on the occasion of the official visit of the American President Donald Trump to Riyadh. On that instance, it became clear that the Americans had singled out Iran as No 1 enemy in the Middle East, sharing the fears of their closest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel. On the other side of the fence, Ankara is aligned with Moscow and Tehran. The trio now aims to solve the Syrian Gordian Knot by themselves, totally sidestepping the West. This is seen in Washington as an act of direct attack against the American interests. The US – Turkey enmity was also ostentatiously confirmed when Ankara assumed a leading role in opposing the Tel Aviv – Washington plan, to make Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state.

No wonder then why the American Department of Justice is actively probing Turkey’s many grey interests. Actually, ex US marine general Michael Flynn is indicted by the special Counsel Robert Mueller, not only for secretly working for Russia but for Ankara too. Is not clear yet if the Americans have revived their old plans, from the time of WWI, for the creation of an independent Kurdish state, but they are seemingly not to back off now for the sake of Erdogan. If this is the case, he will prove a catastrophe for his country, victimizing Turkey for his beyond measure ego.

 

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